October 18, 2004

Vehicle crashes leading cause of death for 15 to 20 year old Americans

Washington, D.C. – The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released national data showing traffic crashes continue to be the leading cause of death for 15-20 year olds.

In 2003, 3,657 (3,827 in 2002) drivers 15 to 20 years old were killed, and an additional 308,000 (324,000 in 2002) were injured, in motor vehicle crashes. Nearly 31 percent of teen drivers killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2003 had been drinking and 74 percent of this group was not wearing their safety belts.

Self-reporting by sixth graders indicates that 16 percent say they drink. That number reaches 82 percent by the time they graduate from high school and by the time teens are in the 10th grade – typically the year they begin to drive – 71 percent of them say they drink. (Teens Today research conducted by SADD and Liberty Mutual, 2002)

“Although crash statistics are at record low levels, we must work everyday to remind everyone about the deadly mix of inexperienced teen drivers and alcohol,” says NHTSA Administrator Jeffrey Runge, M.D. “We know parents hold the keys to prevention and the first step is simply talking to your teen about buckling up, slowing down, and never driving impaired.”

To combat a rash of high profile teen crashes nationwide, the Recording Artists, Actors and Athletes Against Drunk Driving (RADD) Coalition and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), both members of the National Organizations for Youth Safety (NOYS), are promoting a new educational campaign aimed at fostering a dialogue between parents and teens and teens and their peers on the importance of buckling up, not driving impaired and curbing underage drinking.

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